Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

BUG REPELLENTS: Earth-Friendly, Home-Made, Chemical-Free! May 15, 2009

Here are some environmentally-friendly, easy on the budget bug repellent recipes for discouraging insects from damaging your plants, biting your pets, or stinging you! We don’t need to use sprays and harmful chemicals to keep pests away. Chances are, everything you need is in your pantry! (Kudos to Garden Mandy for these fabulous ideas!)

Natural, chemical-free solutions to control bugs this summer.

Pepper Spray  for ants and other small pests.

  • Boil 2 or 3 cups of water.
  • Add about ½ to 2/3 cup of chopped hot pepper. Let marinate for a few minutes.
  • Run the mixture through a sieve to remove the peppers.
  • Put the liquid in a squirt bottle and use when necessary.
  • Be careful not to spray directly on foliage.

 Minty Soap Spray for ants.

This will also work to ward off other pests on foliage, however be care when you spray it directly on your plants–only a little should suffice.

 Pure Vanilla Extract

  • Dab a little on you wrists, neck and behind the ears. Many insects don’t like the smell.

Chemical-Free Bug-Off Mist 

  • Mix witch hazel with a few drops of tea tree oil, lavender oil, or peppermint oil in a squirt bottle.
  • Lightly mist your body.

You can also add one of these essential oils to an unscented organic lotion for a bug repelling moisturizer.

 Lavender Mosquito Barrier No more bites!

  • Rub a lavender flower behind your ears, wrists and neck.
  • Not only will you smell great, but mosquitoes will leave you alone.

Hacking Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters Ride At Disneyland May 13, 2009

As one of millions of parents who has watched Pixar’s Toy Story movies ad nauseam, paid the sizeable entrance fee to Disneyland, stood in endless lines to experience the magic of a 2-minute ride with their offspring, shouldn’t we grown-ups enjoy just the teeniest edge at a few rides?

Dad Danny Sullivan thinks so. A few years ago, he posted his tips for hacking the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in order to post the day’s highest score. Summer is almost upon us, and many will be visiting The Magic Kingdom. Now is our chance!

As Rex says in Toy Story 2: “You know, they make it so you can’t defeat Zurg unless you buy this book. It’s extortion!”

I have to sheepishly admit why I’m personally so interested. My husband is a lifelong video game fanatic—He has played it all. I barely played Pacman back in the day, and aside from a little Bejeweled, I’m hopeless. However! When we went on this ride, I held both my squirming boys while working our ion blasters, and he rode by himself, unecumbered. When the ride was done, mysteriously I’d scored THREE times the points he had! Could I be the next person to defeat Emperor Zurg? Could I?!?

 Read Sullivan’s tips here. To infinity, and beyond!


Mother’s Day is to Mom as Valentine’s Day is to Single Women May 11, 2009

In honor of Mother’s Day I decided to take to take a break from picking up after my husband and sons over the weekend. This morning, I am dealing the fallout from that decision. Any plans I had for my day will have to wait until I’m done cleaning the shocking mess that takes place when I drop a single ball in my role as mom. (Just HOW does our house get so messy in such a short time?!)

Just before church on Mother’s Day morning, I quickly read Raina Kelley‘s report in Newsweek, A Mother’s Day Uprising, where she not-so-kiddingly purports that modern-day motherhood is “impossible”, and the idea that Mother’s Day should be relegated to a Sunday is annoying. “If you really want to celebrate the women who raised us, give us a Monday,” she writes. “Nothing says ‘Thanks, Mom’ like a 3-day weekend.” When I finished reading, Kelley had me downright stirred up about “what I deserve” in return for my tireless 24/7 contributions to my family. 

My husband, who is not a church-goer, attended with me last year in honor of the hallowed holiday. This year, as I hurried to get myself ready, he hung out with my older son playing Legos Star Wars. I was in tears on my way to church–alone–and while he had said, “Happy Mother’s Day” to me first thing when I woke up, I felt less than recognized this Mother’s Day. I made that man a father, after all! Twice!

I only had a few minutes to pull myself together for the short drive. I reminded myself that his absense at church meant nothing. He never attends anyway, and I don’t wish for him to sit there miserably on my account. In truth, I was embarrassed. I actually wondered what people would think of me showing up alone on Mother’s Day. (You may now use the word “crazy.”)

Pleeeeeassse! C’mon now! What would it have proved if he came along? I know the truth of my family dynamic, and I am so very satisfied with our life together. And how on earth could my husband guess that I might feel that way, and therefore decide to do something about it? Did I expect him to read my mind? Why on earth was I thinking this way?

This Mother’s Day hysteria reminds me of the pressures placed on single women on February 14th: Will I have a date? If so, should I play it cool or does it mean more that we are going out on this particular night? If he gives me a gift, how will it represent his feelings for me? Will my significant other do something special? Will he propose in an impossibly romantic way that is exactly like I’ve always pictured, but never told him, in case I scare him away? If he really loves me, he’ll know exactly what to do, what to give, what to say…

It’s a recipe for disappointment, and there are no winners.

To combat this, I have come up with a few solutions.
1.) Realize that we (ALL of us) are always in the midst of perfect love, and no other person needs to prove it to us, even our significant other.
2.) Let go of all expectations, and stop putting values on material items or even gestures of affection. Allow love to be expressed in any form, allow ourselves to be surprised and delighted. (There is love in silence, and there is love in that new blender you were given!)
3.) Give your partner a break and just tell him what speaks to your heart. Don’t make him guess or read your mind. Open the lines of communication and tell him what would be special to you. (If this puts your partner off at all, find a new channel for sharing the workings of your hearts together.)

The year I became a mother, my husband bought a notebook and began a tradition; Every year he writes his reflections of my life as a mother, recalling both the challenges and the high points, and offers loving words of how well I handled them and how much he loves me. This, I promise, is better than any card, and will be something I treasure my entire life.

I told my husband that, for Mother’s Day this year, I wanted to visit Artesia, Orange County’s “Little India”. Yes, I adore Indian food, but Pioneer Street is lined with lovely little shops filled with gorgeous fabrics, hand-made skirts, and embellished tunics, gorgeous hand-made jewellery, and beautiful carved furnishings and perfumes and scarves, oh my! It’s just the kind of place I could never take two small, reckless, preschoolers on my own. I wanted a few hours to poke around the curious little stores, along with my husband who, in honor of the holiday, was left in charge of minding curious little fingers.  

We had a wonderful lunch, visited an Indian sweet shop for unusual desserts largely crafted from honey and condensed milk, and wandered the shops. He was so complimentary about a skirt and top I tried, and got them for me.  He mentioned getting some jewellery (insert pounding heart of excitement here), but we found some gorgeous, hand-carved, low chairs that would be perfect on our patio, and I was more than happy to forgo jewellery in favor of something our whole family could enjoy. My husband’s appreciation for me as a mother is in those chairs.

Yes, I was truly blessed on Mother’s Day, but the experience reminded me to let go of my expectations. I’m not alone in this. Before dinner, I had to step out with my son to pick up a few things from the grocery store. I ran into a neighbor mom and we wished one another a Happy Mother’s Day. She sheepishly admitted she was vacuuming her car: “I have to do it some time!” Well, I’m grocery shopping and then I’ll be cooking–so what? How we spend the day is not a reflection of how much we are loved. In fact, what we receive—or don’t recieve—has nothing to do with it, I’m convinced.

We really need to ask ourselves, “what do I need, when love is all around me?” The love, full abundant love, is already there, and we as mothers do our part to help contribute to it. Now if only our families would pick up after themselves once in a while…


Nature Vs. Nature: 100% Natural Sun Protection… at a Discount! May 6, 2009

Have I got a treat for you!

Vivesana—creators of gorgeous, organic sun-care products—is offering a special 25% off discount just for Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides Readers!

Pure on Purpose

Vivesana (“live healthy” in Italian) was built on the tenets of safety and sustainability. By replacing synthetics and other ingredient fillers with an innovative blend of organic botanicals, Vivesana has produced a safe, luxurious, organic sun care line for babies, women and active families.

All products are water-resistant, hypoallergenic, UVA/UVB protective, phthalate-free, water-free, paraben-free and nanotechnology free. They are so pure that just the tiniest bit is needed—There are no fillers, thickeners emulsifiers, or synthetic preservatives to interfere with its efficacy, so a little goes a long, long way.

Get a Steep Discount!
My readers can enjoy Vivesana sun protection at a whopping 25% discount, simply by visiting the company’s website at and entering WildRide&Vive25 when making a purchase! (Spring for it now–the discount is only in effect until May 31, 2009.)

  • The Solar to Polar Ultra, SPF 40 is a high-performance natural and organic  sunscreen utilizing photo-protective organic botanicals to supplement zinc and titanium protection.
  • The Solar to Polar Baby, SPF 42 is a gentle, BPA-free, hypoallergenic, natural and organic baby sunscreen.

These sunscreens are absolutely delightful and exceedingly luxurious. Only the tiniest amount of product is required for superior coverage. I was very pleased to discover the product is packaged in a metal tube, and the opening requires a puncture to open (simply turn over the lid to do so.) This suggested to me that the botanical and other natural ingredients are potent and their integrity is respected and maintained.

The natural fragrances are very light, and subtly delicious. Besides sun protection, which my family wears daily (we live in California), these sun-care products are beautifully emollient and moisturizing, thanks to 7 different organic oils, beeswax and vitamin E. The Solar to Polar Ultra has improved the appearance of my skin, making it ever-so-soft, and younger looking. My little Noah, now age two, has very sensitive, fair skin. Within only a few minutes of sun exposure, his little cheeks begin to turn red. The Solar to Polar Baby has been delicate enough for his sensitive skin, yet also soothing and nourishing.

Out with the Bad, In with the Good

I’ve told you what ingredients are not in Vivesana; Now, let me share with you all the wonderful goodies that are in the products:

Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide (natural alumina and stearic acid coating), organic soybean oil, organic safflower oil, beeswax, organic olive oil, organic jojoba seed oil, green extract and fragrance, organic apricot kernel oil, organic vegetable glycerin, vitamin E, sunflower seed oil, gingko biloba leaf extract, oat kernel oil, chamomile extract, and raspberry seed oil.


Vivesana proudly donates 10% of their profits to environmental and health groups. Please refer to the company website, to learn more.


Pirate Water Park Family Fun at Anaheim’s Retro HoJo! May 1, 2009

Every family needs and deserves the ideal getaway. To be considered “ideal”, in my estimation it must include the following components:
1. Fun for EVERYONE. Mom and Dad get to relax, and the children have the time of their lives!
2. It musn’t break the bank–that’s a no-brainer.
3. It must be comfortable, safe and conveniently located near great restaurants and fun activities.

Our diamond was not found in the rough, it was discovered in the retro.

Our family recently spent an amazingly wonderful weekend together at Howard Johnson’s in Anaheim,

Built in 1965, Anaheim’s historic HoJo is a mid-century marvel located just off the I-5 at Harbor (aka: a mere 8-minute walk to Disneyland’s entrance). Designed by architect and hugely successful urban planner, William L. Pereira (visionary of the iconic dome of LAX, the Disneyland Hotel, the UCI campus and the TransAmerica Pyramid building in downtown San Francisco), the Anaheim HoJo is unmistakably 1960s California.

Wet ye shall be, buccaneers!

I’d love to impart a local history lesson to my children as much as the next parent, but let’s be honest: the Anaheim HoJo’s big draw is Castaway Cove, the hotel’s private pirate-themed water playground. Yes, I said pirate. I’m certain my boys just felt a quiver of excitement run down their spines as I typed the word.

Built only two years ago, Castaway Cove is the only themed water playground outside of the Disneyland resort. Be assured, this isn’t any glorified sprinkler. As you can see in the photos, there are multiple heated waterslides, a toddler pool, fountains, jacuzzi, cargo net climbs, water cannons, and the most remarkable adrenalin rush in the form of a 300 gallon drench bucket which releases a torrent of water on joyful kids and parents every 2 minutes. (By some feat of engineering, those 300 gallons only soak the willing and wanting. A chaise directly in front of it offers the perfect vantage point without once getting sprayed!)

Think pirates are just for boys? While our young sons do love all things both watery and pirate-y, we mingled with several  families visiting that weekend, most of which were groups enjoying a “girls weekend” away. There was one group we met which comprised two great-grandmas, a grandmother, two daughters-in-law and two grand-daughters. Those little girls didn’t stand a chance when their moms and grandma took turns operating the water cannons as they climbed the cargo net to the highest water slide. We were also pleased to discover the hotel is a favored annual destination for many guests–even before the water park was installed. It’s important to note the HoJo sits on 10 acres (most newer hotels in the area comprise only 1 acre, with only a small rooftop pool), and beyond Castaway Cove guests can explore a separate, large, Garden Pool (which will receive its own hot tub this year) and jasmine-scented garden walkways. The spacious rooms offer balconies overseeing the action and free parking is located away from the activity, so children are safe to roam about the entirely non-smoking facility.

Our weekend was the ideal mix of much-needed relaxation and whirlwind water fun. While “retro” best describes the exterior, our room was comfortable, modern, and boasted a terrific view. (The HoJo sits directly across from Matterhorn mountain and the Monorail tracks. Disney’s  fireworks show explodes just to the right of the Matterhorn as viewed from the deck of Castaway Cove!)

With such close proximity to Disneyland and the fabulously stocked gift shop bursting with Disney souvenirs, I wondered whether our little ones would spend the entire weekend begging for The Magic Kingdom, but they were so satisfied by just playing in the water, and in the hotel’s well-equipped gameroom, it actually never came up.

My readers know all too well, I’m very particular about food and nutrition; a family vacation does not mean a trip away from good health. Mimi’s Cafe, one of the most well-respected and popular restaurants on the strip, sits directly next to the hotel, and area restaurants and shopping abound. Also, every guest room has a fridge for food storage and most have a microwave.

HoJo Anaheim will soon will be adding 14 pirate-themed 2-bedroom suites accommodating six comfortably. Parents can have their own bedroom with king-size bed, while the kids’ side will feature a bunk bed and sofa sleeper and separate bathroom.

Typically, an easy-on-the-budget hotel doesn’t compare with the service at a pricier, exclusive resort. We were very pleasantly surprised to discover the outstanding service and atmosphere of welcome at the HoJo. Every last housekeeper, groundskeeper or maintenance person greeted us and our children with genuine warmth, as if they were sincerely happy to have us visit. Could it just be the euphoria of 300 gallons of water dropped on our heads, or was this one of best family vacations ever?

Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel – Anaheim Resort
1380 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, CA 92802
TripAdvisor’s “Best U.S. Hotel For Families” and “Best Family-Friendly Bargain Hotel in the U.S.” – 2005, 2006 & 2008!

photos by Joseph Lacko